Cornelius on the left side of the box, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes® cereal.com

For more than a century, Corn Flakes have been a staple cereal in American diets everywhere. This crispy golden flaked cereal was initially released in 1894 and since has been led by their main mascot Cornelius, a green cartoon chicken who has been the centerpiece of their simplistic box design since the mid-1960s. However, since late January, Cornelius has begun to cause conflict regarding laws around exportation in Mexico. Mexican officials as of now have confiscated 380,000 boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes raiding warehouses north of Mexico City. The reasoning behind this: Mexico has multiple intertwined laws affecting marketing around children’s diets. Though this can be seen as bizarre, the cartoon mascots on cereal boxes are seen as a marketing ploy to entice children to buy and consume their products. Although Corn Flakes have a similar caloric content as many other name-brand cereals such as Lucky Charms, they have a third of the amount of added sugar and substantial more fiber. These laws were introduced with the hope of systematically solving the obesity crisis in Mexico. According to a 2020 study, about 73% of the Mexican population is considered overweight.

One recurring question and train of thought would be if this is a significant issue within Kellog’s brand, would the most straightforward solution be to retire old Cornelius and choose a more marketable brand character? However, this solution has many more issues than seen at the surface level. One major problem is the fear of the unknown and how different segments of the market would respond. Strong evidence indicates that people have anxiety around change and fear of the unknown. This recurring anomaly can be modeled through the behavior seen in the familiarity bias. As seen in The Review of Finance, author Cao explains how equilibrium prices and interest are reflected with an unfamiliarity premium. Thus, the more significant the change, the more present uncertainty creates an almost ripple-like effect correcting the initial demand.

This is not the first time the cereal industry has faced this issue. General Mills actually faced ethical and social dilemmas related to this phenomenon. Seeking to expand their audience and target population, General Mills decided to change the stable formula within their popular Trix cereal by eliminating artificial preservatives and coloring. (Marketing Grewallevy 8th edition) By eliminating this, they lost some vibrant colors in their cereal, such as sky blue and neon green, which were replaced with natural food coloring derived from beetroot and carrot juices. This created outrage in their community and made General Mills subject to much hate as people became highly opinionated on the subject through central channels of communication such as social media and email. Many of the comments from people surrounding the loss of these vibrant colors. Many say this new cereal means they must “mourn the loss of their childhood.” This made General Mills Re-release their original recipe labeling it as Trix Classic, allowing the new no artificial colors recipe to be an alternative.

Due to the nostalgia present in these almost symbolic breakfasts, it is challenging to make a change. The power of familiarity in our decision-making is a mighty force, and advertisers and producers are aware of this. They utilize this phenomenon to fill a gap in a new consumer’s life, creating a sense of reliability and familiarity, making them migrate towards that thing. This gives us a unique perspective to Benjamin Franklin’s adage that there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes. However, if we were to change that, it would be more accurate to say there are three things certain in life: death, taxes, and hating the unknown.

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